By Brooke Haffenden

CFA concerns regarding the placement of wire rope barriers recently became a reality when local firefighters were unable to access a fire on the Hume Freeway.

The North Central Review can reveal that on Sunday, February 18 the Wallan Fire Brigade was unable to gain vehicle access to a fire on the Hume Freeway due to an apparent failure by VicRoads to listen to CFA recommendations.

Brigade Captain Nathan Anderson confirmed he contacted VicRoads and requested a representative to attend the fire and cut the wire rope barrier.

Mr Anderson said no advice was provided by VicRoads as to what the brigade could have done to access the fire sooner. Knowing the representative was at least an hour away, the brigade parked next to the barrier and climbed over.

“We haven’t actually been trained by VicRoads or the CFA to pull them (the barriers) down,” Mr Anderson explained.

“I myself am not going to put any members in that situation including cutting tensioned wire… We can’t get in there and there’s not any way of forcing our way in there.
“The fire hadn’t spread; we were lucky in that respect.”

This is not the first report of a CFA brigade being unable to gain access. Last week in Parliament, Member for Euroa Steph Ryan questioned Roads Minister Luke Donnellan over reports from the Broadford brigade who said a fire had spread much further than it should have due to poorly placed wire rope barriers preventing them from gaining access.

Broadford Fire Brigade Captain Jamie Atkins raised his concerns with Ms Ryan following a car fire on the Hume Freeway. Mr Atkins said the fire should have been no more than a quarter acre fire but quickly spread to 10 acres after the brigade struggled to gain access.

Local brigade captains including Mr Anderson, Mr Atkins and Yorin Miller (Wandong CFA) told the North Central Review that there needed to be a standard maintained with the barriers. At times the gaps have not been large enough for a person to walk through let alone a vehicle or fire engine.

“Honestly, I’m happy we do have the wire rope barriers in the area, they’re there to save lives and prevent serious injury and that’s what we’re all about. But I’m not quite at ease with the design and how they’ve been implemented,” Mr Anderson said.

“It leaves very little room for us to park on the side of the road safely.”

Mr Miller also reiterated the safety concerns for road users and emergency services.

“We definitely have concerns. They (the barriers) impede our access in terms of accessing fires and also preventing us doing U-turns and getting away,” Mr Miller said.

“The space between roadside edge and safety barrier – there’s not enough space for us to pull over safely.

“There’s also no real egress point for people to get out safely, to turn around and get out if required. The potential to get trapped is quite high.”